Software plug-ins act as smaller programs that plug into a host program in order to provide more functionality for users. Plug-ins allow you to use a third-party software application within a host program like a web page or a desktop publishing application. Other popular plug-ins allow you to view movies and/or listen to music from web pages.
Email programs also use plug-ins for security reasons. For example, email programs like Outlook express use encryption software on the Internet. Encryption is a hidden code used to protect sensitive data such as social security numbers and bank account information. Many websites use encryption so that identity theft predators and offenders can’t steal your personal information.
Graphics programs use plug-ins to support other file formats. For example, if you want to view a file from Photoshop in another program like Microsoft Word, the program would require a software plug-in that allows you to view the Photoshop file.
In other cases, media players also use plug-ins to support audio files so that you can listen to music from a web page on the Internet. Basically, the plug-in decodes the data and allows you to view multi-media graphics as well.
There are also secondary plug-ins that make the primary plug-ins work a little faster and smoother. To give an example, Adobe’s Acrobat Reader can be used within a web browser, allowing portable data files (or PDF files) to be read within your browser window.
Software plug-ins offer a lot of interesting functionality to otherwise very basic and plain applications. For the most part, plug-ins are inexpensive and easy to install. Some are even free. The best way to find out more about software plug-ins is to go to your favorite search engine (like Google), and look them up. Once you enter the keywords, “software plug-in,” you’ll bring up dozens of websites from which you can choose.